1965 Sebring - Clive Baker/Rauno Aaltonen
For 1965 the Donald Healey Motor Company developed this new wind-tunnel developed aluminium coupé, the first of ten to be built over the next four or five years. Its first outing was in the 1965 Sebring 12 Hour Race alongside the previous year's car, 770 KNX. The drivers were Clive Baker and Rauno Aaltonen, who were to finish 15th overall. They would have also won their class but Classes 7 to 10 in the GTP category were amalgamated so that award went to the Mitter/Linge Porsche 908.
The new aerodynamic design was achieved using research by Austin, and construction by DHMC's Experimental Dept. Geoff Healey was design leader, Roger Menadue performed the fabrication and assembly of the mechanical components and Bill Buckingham constructed the body panels. The windscreen was a cut-down Mini one and side windows and headlight covers were in Perspex. Readily Identified as the first of these cars by its smaller inner headlights. The interior has two form-fitting fibreglass bucket seats, trimmed in black simulated leather and the driver has a 5-point racing harness. It has a small fire extinguisher, and all the wiring is internal. The instrument binnacle puts the instruments in front of the driver in addition to which there is a central control housing the various switches for fuel pumps, lights, etc. The specification is as follows: The engine is a 1293cc XSP with a 45 DCOE Weber carburettor, producing 105 bhp @7,200 rpm, coupled to a 4-speed close ratio gearbox. The Sprite chassis monocoque is in Birmabright with a steel roll cage and an all-aluminium 2-seater coupé body. The rear axle was fitted with a 4.2:1 ZF limited slip diff, and the semi-elliptic rear suspension had a Panhard rod and adjustable shock absorbers. Brakes are 8.25 discs at the front and 8 X 1.25" drums at the rear. The special wheels in cast Magnesium were 13" x 5.5" to take 5.00 Dunlop CR65 tyres. The weight was 1322 lbs. Gary says that the car has been clocked at 156 mph. It was shipped back to the UK in the early 80's and restored by Geoff and Donald Healey to bring it back to its original condition and specification.
Former owner Gary Kohs, from the USA, kindly gave me permission to use the accompanying photos (right). In July 2010 Gary sold the car to Marc Verstraete of Belgium.
After the car's first race at Sebring, it was sold to Ray Cuomo who took it to Nassau Speed Week in the Bahamas, where on 3 Dec,1965 Paul Richards drove the car, #83, in the Governor's Trophy Race - finishing 15th. Two days later, in the Nassau Trophy he came 17th, and first in the S1.3 class.
They then entered it in the Daytona 24 Hours in February, 1966 where it blew its engine in the 23rd hour. Although it completed 491 laps it was not classified as a finisher.
Back at Nassau in December, 1966 running under the Ring Free Oils banner, the car's owner Ray Cuomo came 14th in the Governors Trophy, #89, and (?) 1st in class. Two days later in the Nassau Trophy he was 19th and again 1st in class.
In 1968 it was bought by Art(hur) Tuckerman who, under the Wellington Racing banner, took it back to Sebring for the 1969 12 Hours race. It was driven by his chums Gregg Cameron and Ralph Kemmerer wearing #73, came 33rd overall, and was one of three Healeys prototypes in the race being joined by the ex-Targa LWD 959E and the last of the coupés, HAN9-R-238.
Gregg recently told me: "The 1969 Sebring Race was the last Le Mans start race as FIA banned them in the interest of safety. We teamed up with the Ring Free Oil team for the Falstaff Brewing Cup given to the 3 car team that completed the highest mileage in the race. Ralph Kemmerer started the race as Art was afraid I would go off too fast and not do up my belts properly. He may have been right. Bob Phillips was listed as a third driver, but did not drive. I finished the race. We beat Ford, Porsche and Ferrari for the mileage award as they all had a car go out in the race. All three Sprites finished and we won the Falstaff Brewing team award." Great stuff!
Gregg continues: "Racing was changing and when we went to Watkins Glen for the 6 hour new rules stated that in order to qualify all cars must record a time of 90% of the pole sitter in order to race. This effectively eliminated all of the cars in Group IV Prototypes, under 1,300 cc displacement as well as the MG's and other small bore sports cars (see below). After Watkins Glen, Art sold the Prototype Sprite to a guy from Pennsylvania and he raced it several times as a C Sports Racing car. I saw it at Pocono Raceway several times and he raced it under the name of CAE Racing. Then, I believe it was sold to Gary Kohs who lived in the Midwest, perhaps in Illinois. I think Gary sent the car to England to have it restored".
In the Watkins Glen (1969) race mentioned above Gregg was to share the drive with former owner, Ray Cuomo, as #27, but they failed to qualify.
Gregg also recalls: "Originally the car had 4 wheel disc brakes. The rear discs were a hand-made affair that were very cantankerous. We removed them and installed Nash Metropolitan drum brakes, which were larger than Sprite drum brakes and bolted up. At the time we raced it, we had an aluminum gas tank made, but I don't remember the gallons, more than 20 though. When we got the car, it was painted Day Glo orange with white doors and number areas. We hated the look and painted it in American Racing Colors, white with blue stripes. The car was right hand drive, and originally it had "Healey" mag wheels, but we changed them to Minilites. The original Healey mags went to my Sprite race car and were sold with that car in 1976. The electric cut-off switch was in front of the windshield on the right hand side. The lights were Hella and were given to us by Hella Motorsoports at Sebring. We had to remake the rear window and it was now made of Lexan instead of Plexiglass. Ditto for the headlight covers. It had brackets for "Quick Jacks" mounted on the rear of the body and under the front of the grill area. This car was a delight to drive, it was capable of nearly 170 mph and had very brisk acceleration."
The car was owned by Bill Brill in the early 1970's and raced at the Virginia International Raceway (see photo, right).
18 Nov 2013: Bruno Verstraete sent me the accompanying photos (right and below) of spares which were still with the car when it came to him nearly 50 years on, including an unopened crate containing a spare windscreen.
Oil sump (?alloy)
Its first trial run
The new car before..
...heading to Sebring
As it appeared on the cover of the Flying "A" magazine
Paul Richards & Ray Cuomo
At GOFASTER, INC. in Long Island City, Queens - c.1967/8 [photo: Ray Cuomo Jnr]
Now in American race colors
Ready to go, Sebring '69
Gregg Cameron under the car.
See also Gregg's article entitled "The Third Prototype" which appeared in HEALEY MARQUE, the official publication of the Austin-Healey Club of America, with the Club's kind permission.
Bill Brill at Virginia Inter-national Raceway, 1972
5 spare diffs still with the car 50 years on
Spare starter motor